I said it before and I’ll say it again, but Steven Spielberg is a freakin’ movie-making genius. Even in the infancy of his career, you could see he was destined for big things in Hollywood. Well, he struck gold with Jaws (see my review), and now he returns with his science-fiction feature Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Along with Star Wars, you can credit this movie for bringing sci-fi back into the realm of filmmaking. That is just one of the variety of reasons why I love this movie. It is an honest, mysterious movie about extraterrestrial life. The film gives off a sense of aura of mystery and wonder that will stay with you long after the movie is over. Unlike most aliens in movies, I love how Spielberg created these beings as peaceful, friendly aliens, and that Spielberg gave his human characters that sense. In other words, no one is hell-bent on annihilating these aliens. With a wonderful cast and crew behind him, Spielberg created one of cinema’s richest, influential movies about aliens.
So this movie has two important segments that are interwoven with each other. Each segment is a connective tissue for the other segment, and Spielberg (who also wrote this film) incorporates his magic very well. Our first segment has a bunch of scientists investigating mysterious objects that appear out of nowhere in the desert regions and these scientists are perplexed until French scientist Claude Lacombe (Francois Truffaut) uses knowledge of music as a basis of communication with these objects. The responses they get are confusing until cartographer David Laughlin (Bob Balaban) figures out the meaning of these responses. Meanwhile in the small town of Muncie, Indiana, electrician Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) and single mother Jillian Guiler (Melinda Dillon) lives are connected when they experience a bunch of flashing lights in the form of UFOS. Their lives become affected in every way as Roy starts having visions about what is occurring and is obsessed with finding out what is going on, and Jillian needs to figure out the connection between these mysterious UFOS and her three-year-old son, Barry.
The cast and the crew do a wonderful job in putting this film together. After a huge blockbuster, Spielberg gained the right to make any film he wanted , and he chose this film to do. Somewhat of a passion project for him. Not to my surprise, Spielberg did an amazing job as director. He created a tight, effective story and he leaves the audience clamoring for more. The look of the film is really good, thanks to the amazing work done by cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond. There are two scenes that just show the majesty of his camerawork. The first scene is where Barry opens the door to this orange flashing light of the UFOS, The use of color here is amazing, and in return we get one of the most iconic shots of the film. The final scene I want to mention is when a whole bunch of UFOS fly over the town. There is a high-angle shot of a large UFO shadow hanging over a pickup truck. Brilliant camerawork!
Now this film wouldn’t have worked as well if it wasn’t for the amazing score by John Williams. He previously worked with Spielberg on Jaws and created one of the most iconic scores ever made thanks to the use of only two notes. Well, this time he works with only five notes. These five notes is the main communication method of the mother alien ship and then Williams incorporated it into the main theme. Like many of William’s works, this score is an all-time great.
Now the film is very well-acted. I really loved Richard Dreyfuss’s performance. After his roles in American Graffiti and Jaws, I was not sure that he could have done a better performance. Well he did just exactly that. His obsession became quite enticing to watch even as it was negatively messing up his life. I liked the way he figured out clues-really loved that scene with the mashed potato sculpture of Devil’s Tower. The other performances are solid, even if they’re not exactly memorable. Sure, we have the likes of Francois Truffaut, Melinda Dillon, and Teri Garr (who played Roy’s wife), but I think this was mostly a one-man show for Richard Dreyfuss. Although the kid who played Barry did a good job.
Overall, Close Encounter of the Third Kind is a very worthy follow-up to Jaws. I love what kind of science-fiction movie this is. One that delivers a sense of awe and mystery throughout the entire film. See, I love looking up at the night sky and wondering if there is any life out there at all. This film asks that question and more. It also asks if there was life, what kind of beings would they be? Well the film’s jaw-dropping finale tells us the answer. I loved how the film introduced us to these aliens, but also how it dealt with first contact in the confines of Devil’s Tower. The ending will blow your mind away. Give credit where credit is due, but those visual effects are quite polished for a 1977 feature. I highly recommend this movie because it is one of the greatest sci-fi films of all time. Not many films reach the heights this film does. Thank you for this expertly-crafted movie, Mr. Spielberg.
My Grade: A